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Well there you go. The Alberta government has finally come up with its referendum question on equalization and has announced it to much fanfare and derision. Fanfare of course is mostly of the self-congratulatory and siloed variety as the UCP is firmly in support of the positions it supports and derives its support from the supporters who support the things they support. Derision is the highly populated domain of everyone who thinks this is just another dumb idea.

 

Representative democracy is a pretty cool thing when it works. Direct voting on matters of great import is a regular occurrence in other parts of the world, like California, where referendum driven gridlock is a daily reality. Of course, it rarely if ever works so referenda or referendumdums are actually nowhere as cool as people want them to be. In particular when they relate to things that can’t be changed, like for example, the constitution of a country. Far better to keep them confined to really critical things – like marijuana legalization. Do you really think cousin Bob is going to make the right decision in a direct vote on property taxes? The wisdom of the masses isn’t an actual thing. Anyone else here remember Brexit? It’s actually the opposite – the pathological dumbassery of the uninformed mob.

 

Look I get it. The UCP wants to deliver a strongly worded message to the rest of the country that Albertans are mad as hell about equalization. Well guess what. They already know. You aren’t saying anything new. It’s in the news every day. It’s as much political theatre as anything out there. Red meat to a rabid base. Anathema to everyone else. Anyone who actually understands equalization and how the sausage is made thinks a) equalization is fair; b) Albertans have it pretty good in confederation; and c) this referendum is a waste of money that will change nothing but inflame too much. If people even know what it is they are casting their yes or no for.

 

Because let’s face it, it’s a terrible question. I mean this in all seriousness, couldn’t they have done a Twitter survey?

 

 

See how easy that was?

 

But no, instead we get the pendantic:

 

“Should Section 36(2) of the Constitution Act, 1982 — Parliament and the Government of Canada’s commitment to the principle of making equalization payments — be removed from the Constitution?”

 

Never mind that this is a province trying to tell the Federal government what to do, the question is asking to remove a commitment to a principle from a constitution. What does that even mean? I know what it means. It means we want our cake and to eat it too.

 

And where’s the flair? The panache? The deception and misleading language? The French translation? The pathos and the drama?

 

I’m thinking here of such old time classics as this one from 1995:

 

Do you agree that Quebec should become sovereign, after having made a formal offer to Canada for a new economic and political partnership, within the scope of the bill respecting the future of Quebec and of the agreement signed on June 12, 1995?

 

Or the grand-daddy of them all from 1980:

 

The Government of Quebec has made public its proposal to negotiate a new agreement with the rest of Canada, based on the equality of nations;

 

this agreement would enable Quebec to acquire the exclusive power to make its laws, levy its taxes and establish relations abroad — in other words, sovereignty — and at the same time to maintain with Canada an economic association including a common currency;

 

any change in political status resulting from these negotiations will only be implemented with popular approval through another referendum;

 

on these terms, do you give the Government of Quebec the mandate to negotiate the proposed agreement between Quebec and Canada?

 

Now those – those were real referendum questions. Those questions were intense, clear in their approach and of great national import. The 1980 question asked for a mandate to negotiate a proposed separation agreement. The 1995 one said F It, we’re out – yes or no! The whole country paid attention.

 

Alberta’s referendum question? “We make more money than you guys and we want to keep it”. Seriously?

 

Nope, bah, blah, blah. Ho hum. Boredom. Where’s the beef?

 

On a question about something we actually can’t change, that isn’t punitive and that reflects the fact that we live in the highest earning province in the country with the most fiscal room.

 

So herewith and forever, notwithstanding the desires of the Liquor Cabinet, I assign this “question” to the dustbin of history and instead replace it with a much larger ballot containing the following much more important questions that should be asked and which, with any luck, we can act on.

 

Question:

 

  • Should the Government of Alberta stop pursuing a pointless rear-guard action defending an industry that is more than capable of defending itself and disband the money-wasting Alberta War Room and the Committee investigating Unalbertan activities, otherwise known as the Public Inquiry into Anti-Energy Campaigns.

 

  • In light of various and sundry government influenced industry missteps, boondoggles and losses of money, would you like the Alberta government to stop touting itself as “business savvy” and using the slogan “moving at the speed of business” until such time as they can capably demonstrate one iota of understanding as to how business actually works?

 

  • Do the Alberta government and people have a right to expect TC Energy to refund the $1.3 billion they took from taxpayers to fund a pipeline project they knew had zero chance of happening if Joe Biden got elected and at best a 50/50 chance of completion with a re-elected Donald Trump?

 

  • We Albertans are sick and tired of all the gratuitous energy bashing and misinformation that occurs on an almost daily basis across Canada, North America and the world. Be it resolved that we have moved on, don’t care and are just going to get back to work producing the commodity that the world at large needs to sustain itself and its prosperity.

 

  • Whereas we feel industry representation has been decidedly too partisan and informed by narrow special interests, should the Alberta government appoint an Energy Czar, a person with industry knowledge, no political ties, who is not a member of an industry association or lobby group, who can come at issues from all sides and who will be given unlimited power to negotiate energy sector policies on behalf of the people of Alberta including environmental, cleanup, tax and royalty policy, decision-making power over new projects and infrastructure and whatever else is deemed relevant to the energy sector, including renewables, fossil fuels and as yet undiscovered energy sources.

 

  • Should that person be me.

 

  • Whereas Alberta is a province within Canada, subject to the laws of the Federal government and the Constitution, wherein we actually get a pretty good deal, should we collectively agree to dial down the anger machine just a few notches so that we can all catch a breath after this pandemic.

 

  • Whereas there appears to be some measure of support for Alberta separation in the form of a Wexit movement, should the Alberta government and the ruling United Conservative Party (UCP) continue to pander to this movement?

 

  • Whereas we are in the midst of a seemingly unstoppable energy transition of uncertain speed and scope, should the Alberta government encourage the development of a domestic battery supply chain and manufacturing industry?

 

  • Whereas Alberta is a distinct society within Canada, should Alberta have its own official ice cream flavour.

 

  • Whereas Alberta is an important province within Canada and Toronto is the self-proclaimed “centre” of Canada and has a hockey team that has failed to win a Stanley Cup since the centennial year of the Country, be it resolved that Alberta be declared “better at the National sport than those guys” and more deserving of national support by the Toronto-based sports media even if we have already been eliminated from playoff contention.

 

  •  Whereas Alberta has a Wexit movement and Quebec has historically had a similar movement and uses all of our tax dollars for equalization anyway, be it resolved that the Montreal Canadiens be declared a defacto Team Alberta for as long as they remain in the playoffs. #GoHabsGo

 

  • Should the Alberta government be empowered to ask the Federal government to restore passenger rail service to Calgary, just because.

 

  • Whereas a Federal election is imminent and it appears highly likely that the governing Liberals will win, should all elected CPC MPs be empowered to opportunistically cross the floor and join the Liberal Party such that Alberta will finally have some representation in the Federal government and these long-suffering public servants will get to learn what it is like to not have to sit in depressing opposition.

 

  • Whereas we are emerging from a now 16 month raging global pandemic that has wrought stress and hardship across the population and business community be it resolved that as restrictions are lifted we will do our best not to sit in judgment of the reopening plans of businesses, the levels of participation people pursue in activities, mask wearing, patio sitting, restaurant going, stampeding, friend interacting, vacationing, cocooning, crowd avoiding, outdoor Zumba’ing, teenagering, mall-going, public gathering, vaccinating, border crossing, flying and whatever other actions or activities people pursue.

 

  • Be it also resolved that notwithstanding the preceding, anything that happened before reopening is fair game for judgement, derision, public shaming and punishment, regardless of where you sit in the societal pecking order.

 

  • Whereas we have entered Phase 2 of the reopening plan and it is a sunny, warming Friday afternoon, do you agree that this particular blog should end now and the author be allowed to seek out a suitable patio for a cold beer and a plate of wings.

 

So there you have it. Lots of good questions. Not a single bad one.

 

And a shorter blog to reflect the nicer weather.

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